Investigation of taste tainting in salmon flesh in the Ribble catchment

James, H.A. and Naismith, I.A. and Crane, R.I. and Williams, D. (1997) Investigation of taste tainting in salmon flesh in the Ribble catchment. EA North West, 79pp. (CO 4338).

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This report presents the findings of the first phase of an investigation into the cause(s) of taints in salmonid fish in the River Ribble, commissioned by the North West Region of the Environment Agency. There have been reports of tainting in fish taken from both the estuary and the freshwater river for many years, but the contaminants involved and their source and transport pathway are unknown. Tainting by phenols has been of specific concern in the past. The work programme comprised: examination of tainting reports; collection of salmonids; their submission for taste testing; literature review; analysis of fish flesh using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS) and analysis of river bed sediments. From enquiries, three common descriptors of the 'taint' were identified: disinfectanty; diesely; and muddy. The incidence of taints appears transient/irregular and may therefore relate to the incidence of discharges and specific threshold concentrations of pollutants. The literature review showed that a wide range of organic compounds including many industrial chemicals, and others which are naturally occurring, can taint fish flesh. Taste testing confirmed the presence of tainted salmon and trout in the Ribbie Catchment. It identified a low incidence of 'untainted' fish but demonstrated the 'taint' to be not specific to one tainting substance. Differences were found both between the species and fish from different parts of the catchment. Overall, most fish exhibited an unpleasant flavour, though this may have been influenced to some extent by the fact that most were sexually mature. The worst tainting was found in trout from the river Calder: a soapy/chemical aftertaste. An unpleasant earthy/musty flavour distinguished the salmon from the trout. Phenol was shown to have been a minor issue during the present study, whilst no hydrocarbon taints were identified. Examination of tissue from the eight salmon exhibiting the worst taints revealed the presence of aromatic hydrocarbons, but no phenolic compounds. Other notable substances present in the fish were siioxanes and benzophenone. Data from sediment analysis is presented which shows the main compounds present to be aromatic and polyaromatic hydrocarbons, that concentrations at two locations R. Darwen and R. Calder were significantly higher than at other sites, and that some phenolic compounds were detected at low levels. A paucity of fish flesh taste descriptors linked to specific compounds prevented an obvious correlation to be made between the tastes observed and the organic compounds detected. Descriptors frequently used by the taste testing panel (e.g. earthy, musty, astringency, chemical) cannot be linked to any of the compounds identified in the tissue analyses. No taste information was available from the literature on siioxanes. Aromatic hydrocarbons though present in tissue and sediments were not identified as tainting.

Item Type: Monograph or Serial Issue
Title: Investigation of taste tainting in salmon flesh in the Ribble catchment
Personal Creator/Author:
James, H.A.
Naismith, I.A.
Crane, R.I.
Williams, D.
Number of Pages: 79
Date: May 1997
Publisher: EA North West
Funders: Environment Agency Archives North West
Contact Email Address:
Issuing Agency: Environment Agency, UK (Freshwater Biological Association)
Uncontrolled Keywords: England; Lune Catchment; Freshwater pollution; Freshwater fish; Salmonid fisheries; Discolouration; Taste; Hydrocarbons; Quality control; Salmo salar; Salmo trutta
Subjects: Ecology
Item ID: 8084
Depositing User: Hardy B Schwamm
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2012 14:50
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2012 14:50
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